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February 1, 2018

Success as a Chain Reaction

Rick Cummings

Rick Cummings


Cummings offers enriching internship at Harvard 

With his educational roots established in the rich soil of the University of Montevallo, Dr. Richard D. Cummings has grown and flourished throughout his illustrious career. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from UM in 1974, he went on to hone his skills through training at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he earned his doctorate, and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he completed his post-doctoral fellowship in hematology/oncology.

Having personally received an exceptional education — and seeing the value in having access to first-rate learning opportunities himself — he decided to play a part in cultivating the dreams of today’s UM students.

Conducting Experiments

During his former tenure as the chair of the biochemistry department at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Cummings established an ongoing internship program that opened the door for UM students to spend a semester getting hands-on training in Emory’s biology department.

After he left Emory and became a professor of surgery at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, he established yet another internship opportunity.

“It is my privilege to support the terrific students coming out of UM and give them an opportunity like I had at the same age to develop their careers,” Cummings explained.

Forming Strong Bonds
Nick Rivers

Nick Rivers

Nick Rivers ’17, a current medical school student at UAB, was the recipient of this Harvard Summer Research Internship during the summer of 2016.

“I was very fortunate that Dr. Cummings and Montevallo offered me the opportunity to research in a lab run by world-renowned scientists,” he said, gratefully. “I know the chance to intern at a place of that caliber, as a junior in college, is quite a rare event.”

Brian Kirkwood, a senior set to graduate in spring 2018, was the internship recipient this past summer. He recognized that this opportunity allowed him to discover an inside look at the life of a researcher in a prestigious biochemistry lab. In this true-to-life environment, where resources were plentiful, he was able to learn more — and more quickly — than he ever thought possible.

“Although the University of Montevallo, specifically the Department of Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, may lack the depth of resources of high-profile institutions, the professors at UM focus on developing the analytical reasoning skills necessary to function in a variety of environments,” he said.

Data = Positive Results
Brian Kirkwood

Brian Kirkwood

Internships like these are about more than just academics. They give students like Rivers and Kirkwood the chance to experience being away from family, friends and the comfort of home, sometimes for the very first time.

“I think I grew up a lot this summer,” Kirkwood said, “not just as a scientist, but in general.”

Rivers recognized that a UM alumnus choosing to give back to current students in such an extraordinary way is one of the things that makes Montevallo unique.

“The fact that Dr. Cummings continues to offer such a fantastic opportunity is a testament to the emphasis on lasting relationships and ‘family’ that makes UM special,” he said.

A Refined Hypothesis

Internships provide influential and powerful encounters for UM students and graduates. They open doors for new opportunities and connections and offer experiences that students may not get otherwise.

“I found that a lot of the required knowledge simply could not be found online or in textbooks; instead I found it in the minds of my coworkers,” Kirkwood explained. “I was also exposed to a variety of cultures, as Dr. Cummings’ internationally renowned lab attracts post-doctorates from around the world.”

Rivers agreed that he found great value in the experience. “I would encourage all UM alumni who are seeking ways to give back to consider establishing internship opportunities for UM students in their field.”

For more information on how you can establish and grow a learning internship for UM students in your field or industry, please contact

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